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Illinois Senate Passes Bill That Could Allow a Chicago Casino

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Illinois Senate today introduced a major gambling proposal that, with other new business taxes, will generate $5 billion in new money for the state.

The gambling plan, approved along partisan lines 8-5, will allow existing casinos to double in size and create four new casinos, one of which will be in Chicago.

The plan also calls for an alternative minimum tax for companies that end up owing no state income taxes and also impose income tax on some businesses that are currently exempt.

Senate President Emil Jones D-Chicago said "his proposal would pay for vital state services from health care to education and transportation, without raising taxes on average people."

Governor Rod Blagojevich said "if it means health care for everybody, I'm willing to accept the proposal that would provide more gaming."

House Speaker Michael Madigan call it 'a constructive offer', but repeated his position that a major gambling expansion is unlikely to pass.

"We are certainly moving in the right direction here," said Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie. "It would create lots of money, lots of revenue to be used in various ways."

Republicans argued the gambling plan was flawed in several ways, saying it provides too much money for general state spending, which they believe already is out of control, but doesn't offer enough for school and road construction projects that are long overdue.

The gambling plan would provide more than $2 billion in new money for next year's budget by authorizing a huge-land casino in Chicago and three smaller, floating casinos in Chicago's suburbs.

"We have to live within our means," said Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville.

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